Marzouki must stand against the counter-revolution in Tunisia

Marzouki must stand against the counter-revolution in Tunisia
This month's presidential polls will be a test for the country which gave birth to the Arab Spring.
5 min read
10 Nov, 2014
Marzouki is running for re-election to the presidency [Getty]

The leader of Nidaa Tounes, Beji Caid Essebsi, has called for the resignation of Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and President of the Constituent Assembly Mustapha Ben Jafar.

Essebsi's party won parliamentary elections held on 26 October, and Nidaa Tounes remains confident going into the presidential elections, in which 27 candidates are competing for the top job.

Nidaa's Secretary-General Taieb Baccouche also announced the country would reinstate its relations with Syria "for the benefit of the Tunisian population".

The announcement was strangely timed, coming as it did in the middle of an election campaign. Its purpose was clearly to grab the attention of regional and international players and signal Nidaa's foreign policy intentions.

The statement was not meant to imply that Nidaa Tounes would re-establish relations with Bashar al-Assad's regime but to say that Tunisia, which wholeheartedly supported the Syrian uprising, would adjust its priorities under Nidaa to issues such as fighting "terrorism".

The forces of the counter-revolution

It is no secret that, over the past two years, Nidaa has received support from countries that stand against the region's various revolutions against autocratic leaders. The party started as a parliamentary bloc with ten MPs who had all left their own parties. In the past two years, they were able to gather supporters from among the remnants of former dictator Zein El Abidine Ben Ali's disbanded Democratic Constitutional Rally.

Nidaa managed to attract Tunisians who thought, perhaps incorrectly, the party could bring security and stability at a time when the country was politically polarised between secular forces and the Islamist Ennahdha Movement.

     These countries see Nidaa Tounes as an ally in their war against the Muslim Broterhood.

But since the birth of the Arab Spring revolutions, it has become clear that states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt under Abdul Fatah al-Sisi have openly declared war on Muslim Brotherhood-aligned forms of political Islam.

These countries see Nidaa Tounes as an important ally in this war. That said, however, we should not overlook the fact that Nidaa succeeded where leftist parties and civil society groups failed to capitalise on the surge of political engagement among youth, students and the middle and lower classes, engaging instead in a conflict with political Islam.

This caused dangerous levels of political polarisation and public tension in Tunisia, though, luckily, key figures in the Tunisian revolution chose the path of unity and consensus-building over open confrontation and naked conflict, defusing a great deal of political tension and ultimately, perhaps, averting a major political crisis.

Perhaps our Tunisian brothers would allow us to say that they have been lucky to have a decent political class that has focused on the commonalities of Tunisians rather than factionalism and divisions. Further, they sided with the revolution - knowing that it would still have to pass through several stages in order to achieve its goals - and blocked counter-revolutionary attempts.

Tunisians are best placed to judge their political elites. However, the belief that interim President Moncef Marzouki is one of the best among the Tunisian political elite is a fair opinion.

Marzouki has demonstrated his commitment to the goals of the revolution, despite difficulties and setbacks. His short term in office has not been without issue - the upcoming presidential elections will most likely not be a battle of personalities, but a battle between the forces representing the counter-revolution and those representing the hopes and aspirations of the youth who hit the streets in 2011 demanding change.

It is clear that regional and international players are working hard to subvert the intentions of those who started the revolution in Sidi Bouzid.

Ben Ali fled, but elements of his regime remained. They stayed quiet for a while, eventually reappearing in a sanitised form, as political parties and civil society organisations, forms that make them more socially acceptable.

No one wants these people to be banned from public life, as they have valuable expertise. However, some of them have begun flexing their muscles to the point that they are unashamed of their opposition to the revolution and the political forces representing it. Further, they have not hidden their efforts to regain their former positions of power and influence in the country.

Democrats unite

     Moncef Marzouki is one of the best among the Tunisian political elite.

Given the sensitivity of the current situation in Tunisia, and the fact that Nidaa Tounes represents a political platform from which counter-revolutionary forces can comfortably operate, it is imperative for democratic and revolutionary forces to unite behind one presidential candidate.

Progressive forces should take a wise, brave and responsible decision to block any possible progression to a revamped authoritarianism with clear ties to the regime of Ben Ali.

As Arabs, we notice Essebsi's efforts to emulate Abdul Fatah al-Sisi as a representative of the counter-revolution, in the country that started the Arab Spring.

At the United Nations, Marzouki called for the deposed president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, to be released - not because Marzouki is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or due to any ties with political Islam.

Marzouki, leader of the centre-left Congress for the Republic party, called for Morsi to be released because of his sincere democratic convictions. Counter-revolutionary forces do not lack for weapons to use against the forces of the Arab Spring; the imprisonment of Morsi on such ridiculous charges is one particularly effective weapon.

Tunisian nationalists do not need to take lessons from anyone. We in the Arab East are overjoyed as we watch developments in Tunisia, waiting for the next test the country faces on 23 November, a presidential election.

It is safe to say that victory for Moncef Marzouki would represent success in this test, and a victory for Beji Essebsi would represent failure.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.